Second-ranked Clemson will host Troy on Saturday in Death Valley in its home opener. The game is scheduled to kick off at 12:30 p.m. and will be televised by the ACC Network. This is just the second meeting all-time between Clemson and Troy.
The first meeting took place in 2011, a 43-19 Clemson victory.
Here are the key matchups to watch in the home opener.
Clemson’s defense vs. Troy’s offense: The Men of Troy totaled 706 yards in last week’s win over Austin Peay. It was the Trojans’ third highest total in school history. Led by quarterback Brandon Silvers, the no-huddle, spread offense resembles Mike Leach’s old Texas Tech offenses, which is where head coach Neal Brown’s background comes from. Troy snaps the ball quickly and throws quick, short accurate passes to their athletes in space as they try to wear down a defense and then create miss matches. Concentrate on the pass too much and they will change things up and run running back Jordan Chunn right down the middle. Last week, the Tigers held Auburn to 262 yards, including 87 on the ground. Clemson dominated the line of scrimmage and created three turnovers. The Tigers had 14 tackles for loss and four sacks. Coaching in the Big 12 for so many years, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has a lot of experience defending against this kind of offense. Advantage: Clemson
Deshaun Watson vs. Vic Koenning: Under Koenning’s tutelage, Troy allowed 391.3 yards per game last season. It marked the first time since 2008 a Troy defense held its opponents’ average under 400 yards. It was an improvement of 62.8 yards from the previous season. Koenning is known for his ability to change things up in the secondary by mixing and disguising his coverages. However, the last time Deshaun Watson faced a Vic Koenning defense he torched it for 435 yards and a Clemson record six touchdowns when Koenning was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina. After having a solid night at Auburn last week, does Watson light up the Trojans with Heisman-like numbers? Advantage: Clemson
Clemson running game vs. Troy’s front seven: Clemson running back Wayne Gallman earned all 123 of his rushing yards last week against an Auburn defensive front that will be as talented as any the Tigers see all season. Gallman averaged over four yards per carry and ran for a touchdown. The Clemson offensive line played well and was not called for a single penalty in a hostile environment. That does not bode for a Troy front seven that is at a big disadvantage when it comes to size and strength. Clemson will try to establish the run early and often in a game in which it should have huge advantage up front. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom line: Troy will be a little bit more of a challenge from an offensive standpoint than Auburn was because it has one quarterback who knows how to make plays with his arm. Troy will move the ball and will score, but in the end, Clemson has too much talent and too many weapons on offense for the Trojans to keep up. Look for this game to be over by halftime.
Prediction: Clemson 52, Troy 17